Meet the Staff Feature: Devon Henschel

For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.

Name: Devon Henschel

Title: Records Management Archivist

Specialties: Local government records management and training

How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?

I received my undergraduate degree in Anthropology, with a concentration in Museum Studies, from the University of Alabama. Despite my degree being in Anthropology, most of my work experience is with libraries, both public and academic. Many of the skills I developed in my library positions, especially my attention to detail and ability to walk patrons through obscure or complicated processes they don’t have to deal with every day, have been a great benefit in my current work at the ADAH. The ADAH was already on my radar as a great historical resource in the state, and this job proved to be great opportunity to combine my interests and experience to help create and preserve what will become the historical record, while putting to use the detail-oriented mindset I’ve fostered in the library world.

What is your role?

I work primarily with local governments and the records they create. In the future, I will be training public officials, especially local agencies, on managing their records – how to organize, store, and permanently preserve permanent records or eventually dispose of temporary records in accordance with the Record Disposition Authority (RDA) and with destruction notices. Though there are only fifteen local RDAs, they are organized by type so that each one covers a multitude of individual agencies. Think about how many schools there are in Alabama – the RDA for Boards of Education applies to all of them. The same concept applies to the RDAs for Municipalities, governing local governments, and to Law Enforcement Agencies, governing local police departments and county sheriff’s offices. Those fifteen local RDAs keep me busy!

What is something people don’t know about the Records Management Section?

Just how much we deal with! Many people don’t think about how many records government agencies produce in a given year. We’re here to help them wade through all of it, armed with an RDA. As support staff for the State Records Commission and Local Government Records Commission, we are responsible for creating and revising these RDAs in cooperation with agencies, ultimately outlining what records need to be kept and for how long. Right now, our section works with everyone from large state agencies like the Office of Information Technology, to small state agencies like the Multiple Needs Child Office, to local agencies such as the Lakeview Fire Protection District, all while keeping in the back of our minds that we’ll need to create new RDAs with new agencies like the Bicentennial Commission. There’s something new every day, and I love the variety.

For people who don’t think about their records every day, why is records management important?

Many employees – and especially state employees – produce and accumulate an enormous amount of records. These might range from historically significant documents, such as meeting minutes, to less important records, like potluck fliers and the internet printouts shoved in a drawer. Some records need to be kept permanently to show the work agencies do, but most records can be disposed of in a short period of time. Many records don’t need to be kept longer than a day, like the ubiquitous “donuts in the break room” email. Implementing a records management system and a plan to dispose of what you don’t need cuts down on the records clutter – both paper and electronic – so that day-to-day operations can run more smoothly. Luckily, we’re here to help!

What are your hobbies outside of work?

In the past few years, I’ve really gotten into cooking and baking, and I’m always on the lookout for new desserts and breads I can test out in my stand mixer. Beyond that, I love embroidering, discovering new walking and hiking trails, and piecing together jigsaw puzzles.

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